DISCLAIMER: We don't own the characters that we don't own. Then ones you know are owned by Dick Wolf and NBC. Law and Order: Special Victims unit is also theirs. Everything else comes from our demented minds.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: for Guilt.
By hobbes and bluebriefs
7. Oh One Oh Two
Olivia Benson had learned early to be observant. She had developed the skill as a self defense mechanism as a child, watching her alcoholic mother.
It was before her third birthday that Olivia knew the indicators for determining what kind of day she would have to navigate. A happy and cheerful mom in the morning meant that mom would be passed out before five PM. A grumbling and grouchy mom meant that Olivia would have to avoid her mother who would be spoiling for a fight. Because of Olivia's ability to see what was coming it had been rare that their fights would be physical.
The in between moods were harder to recognize but Olivia learned the clues: a shaky hand, the mumbled word, being called his kid rather than her name. It had astounded Olivia that the other adults around her were so blind to the truth.
As a teenager she was able to manipulate people but it always left her feeling horrible. In her mind it made her like her mother and that was the last person she wanted to grow up to become.
So she parlayed her observation skills into a good career. Olivia was a good cop even though her compassion for the victim sometimes got her in trouble. She knew on some level that she was making an attempt at saving the child she had been. While there had been no sexual abuse in her childhood Olivia knew she would have been blamed if the uncle of that month had turned his attentions to her. But her mother always kept the creeps away once she recognized them.
Her observation skills had the added effect of being able to recognize when someone around her changed even if it was slight. The changes to Alex after New Years Day were insignificant to the rest of the squad but Olivia saw them as if they were bubble lights. What she couldn't figure out was what they meant.
The second of January had been awkward. She had left Alex's apartment before the blonde had awakened. The note she left behind thanked Alex for the invitation and explained of the predawn phone call that was the cause of her exit. It felt like she was sneaking out of a one-night stand.
Then Alex had come to the station to observe the questioning of a suspect. Olivia noticed right off that Alex couldn't even look her in the eye. She let Elliot deal with the prosecutor and did her own little avoidance dance into the crib.
It took a couple days for the ill at ease feelings to fade and as they did the ever-observant detective noticed that Alex was acting different. At first Olivia thought she was imagining things. Alex wouldn't jerk her feelings around like that. Then again, Alex didn't know that Olivia was interested in her. She may have thought that it was all in good fun. Or maybe it was all unconscious.
Right. Alex is unconsciously coming on to you, Olivia scoffed.
Flirting would have been too strong a word for what she saw happening but over the next couple weeks Olivia was convinced that something was going on. She just didn't know what it was.
Olivia felt as if her personal space was being invaded. Every time she was working with Alex the blonde seemed to stand closer than she had before. A couple of times they brushed against each other when Alex stood too close. Alex had also taken to touching Olivia's arm to get her attention. Olivia didn't mind the contact; Alex being one of the few people she was comfortable enough with to allow it. She just found it strange that the lawyer had suddenly started initiating it.
Then there were the phone calls. Olivia had once joked that Alex was addicted to her Blackberry. Alex would text message and send e-mail ten times a day looking answers to her never-ending list of questions. A phone call was a rare occurrence. Until now. Now it seemed that Alex would call for any reason.
In the past Olivia would have brought it up with Alex but now she hesitated. She could come up with plausible explanations to rationalize her observations. The squad room and Alex's office were both cramped for space. Alex touching her wasn't really that new even if she had started noticing it more. The phone calls could be because of the constant teasing that she subjected Alex to about her Crackberry addiction. The truth was Olivia didn't mention any of it because she didn't like the awkwardness of those two days.
Olivia plugged along never once acknowledging it and at times enjoying the proximity even if she did find it all bewildering. Alex had been very clear that the kiss had been a mistake. So why was she now initiating contact, why the phone calls and why is she always standing so damn close?
8. Coffee And More
Alex's baffling behavior remained at the edge of Olivia's mind for the rest of the month. She wouldn't deliberately think about it but on occasion it would come roaring out and give her a V8 pop to the head. By the beginning of February she convinced herself that she needed to completely forget the drunken incident. She knew what needed to be done but the opportunity had yet to avail itself.
On the coldest day of the year yet Olivia wandered into The Daily Grind, her favorite little coffee shop that was located between her subway stop and the 16th. Just the smell of roasted espresso beans made Olivia feel a little more awake. She got in line behind two other customers, not looking at the menu and letting her mind wander in the temporary lull the wait afforded her. Once more, thoughts of Alex Cabot and January first snuck out into her daydream.
The reverie faded as she felt someone move in line behind her. Years on the street made her size up the woman who joined the queue. A snap judgment later they exchanged the strangers smile, the non verbal equivalent of "hey, how ya doin", and Olivia went back to her own thoughts.
The two in front were having trouble deciding the size of their drinks. Olivia winced inwardly when the kid at the counter foolishly asked what kind of milk they wanted with their lattes. She had been running ahead of time when she decided to stop in to get some real coffee. She checked her watch and sighed. Better pick up something for Elliot too now.
Olivia made eye contact again with the woman behind who gave her a sympathetic smile and the smallest of shrugs. Her eyes, Olivia noticed, were brilliantly green.
Feeling foolishly bold Olivia conspiratorially whispered, "There should be a rule about not taking more than 30 seconds to make up your mind once you're up there or you get sent to the back of the line."
"I've gained a few more grey hairs since I got in line," the woman chuckled.
Olivia's eyes flicked to the woman's dark blonde tresses with liberal salt and pepper strands.
"You wear it well."
"Thank you. But my vanity dictates that I have it concealed. Dessie's going to have a fit whenever I next find the time to go see her."
In front of them, Twiddledee successfully ordered her cafe mocha with 2 percent while Twiddledum was still agonizing over whipped cream or flavoring but not both.
"I like your highlights." The stranger spoke up again, complimenting Olivia.
"Thanks. I'll have to tell my stylist Raymond that someone else likes it besides him." Olivia self-consciously ran a thumb across the stubborn bangs to sweep them from her eyes.
"It's a little too edgy for my taste..."
Their conversation was cut short as Olivia finally made it to the counter to place her order. They stood and waited for their drinks and the woman, in a bold little move of her own, extended her hand to Olivia.
"I'm Laney Whitmore."
"Olivia. Benson," the cop suavely stuttered. Olivia wondered why she was suddenly tripping over her own name.
"I figured we should exchange names now that we know each other's hairdresser."
Olivia could not help but grin widely at the charming woman. The conversation lasted until both had their orders in their hands. Finding the opportunity she had been looking for to move on with her love life after the non-kiss with Alex, Olivia walked out of the cafe with two coffees, a dozen donut holes and Laney Whitmore's phone number.
The best way to make an impression on your first date, which had already been twice rescheduled because of work, is to arrive early and bring flowers. This was exactly what Olivia did when she stood at the doorstep of Laney Whitmore's apartment.
When Laney opened the door, Olivia saw a woman who could definitely still turn heads anywhere she went. Her grey streaks, visible that day at the Daily Grind, were now brown highlights and the emerald dress she wore brought out her sea-green eyes.
A broad smile came to Olivia's face as she presented the older woman with a bouquet of tulips.
"These are wonderful!" Laney effused. "I have just the perfect place for them."
Laney's apartment was small and stuffed with books on every surface. Olivia caught sight of several fictional murder mysteries and a few law books she had seen before in Alex's office. Sitting under a copy of the latest Linda Fairstein novel was a book titled The Mammoth Book of Roman... The rest of the title was obscured and Olivia's curiosity was piqued. The detective also scanned the titles to a few textbooks as she followed Laney into the kitchen. She watched as the slender woman reached up and brought a vase down from a cabinet.
"The flowers are for ah... being most gracious and accommodating. And for still agreeing to see me after I've canceled twice now," Olivia said in an effort to make amends. She threw in a genuine crooked Benson smile for added effect when Laney turned around to face her.
"I know a few other people in the force, so I understand what it's like when you're working a case."
Olivia's face changed, pretty certain she'd never mentioned anything about the job even when she called to cancel.
It was Laney's turn to smile. She set the vase on the counter and turned to the slightly perplexed detective. "Your detective badge was clipped to your belt the other day at the coffee place. Now, shall we?"
"Ah," was all Olivia could come back with as she led the way out the door.
The evening went by quickly and Olivia found herself enjoying Laney's company. Olivia had deftly turned the conversation over to Laney after disclosing her position with SVU. There was only so much you could talk about before it became awkward, perverted, gruesome or a combination of those.
Not with a certain ADA, a voice in Olivia's head suddenly piped up. She ignored it and went to work on learning more about the woman sitting across from her. Laney, Olivia discovered, taught economics at Pace University and the detective seized on that.
"Any particular areas of interest?" she asked the older woman.
Laney laughed softly in an attractive contralto tone borne of age and experience.
"I've been struggling to explain what it is I do to those outside of my field. My work..." she paused, as if to give it some thought, "is about trying to understand international conflicts war, strife, uprisings and such by using game theory to explain why people and governments do what they do in those situations."
"That would be pretty challenging to try and fit into a business card," Olivia said in mock seriousness.
"Some of us don't have a clear job description such as your profession affords," Laney countered. "I've wondered what your business cards say."
"Well, I don't have any with me tonight but I'll remember to bring you one the next time."
"The next time? You're assuming I would like to see you again?" The professor smiled enigmatically at Olivia.
Olivia raised her water glass and tipped it towards the professor in a toast. She didn't know Laney well enough to let loose a smirk so she tried her own inscrutable look. It must have worked because by the end of the evening Laney agreed have dinner with her again.
When Olivia arrived home it was well after midnight. Her machine was blinking and she listened to the messages as she hung up her coat. Alex had called twice about this, that and nothing. Olivia listened to the messages with a small smile. Alex, like most lawyers, seemed to like the sound of her own voice. Olivia had never really noticed before since she had never minded listening to Alex ramble.
A change of clothes, a quick trip to the bathroom and check of her alarm clock and she was ready for bed. After a minute she got back up and plugged her dead cellphone with the charger. A few more minutes of laying down Olivia found herself getting up again, this time to get a drink of water.
The fifth time she got out of bed Olivia sighed. Some nights she found herself restless. Tonight, her mind was racing with thoughts about Laney. Laney and Alex. It wasn't fair, comparing the two women. Especially since she and Alex had never had that type of relationship but Olivia found herself doing it anyways.
As usual when insomnia hit Olivia pulled out her endless pile of paperwork along with her laptop. Using the couch as a backrest Olivia sat at her coffee table and began to work her way through the files. By two AM she had put a sizable dent to the pile, surfed a few websites looking for a new winter hat and scarf set and wrote e-mails to Elliot, Alex and Laney to be sent later.
When she climbed under the covers again Olivia's mind was stilled and sleep came quickly enough. Four hours later, the alarm went off blaring Eurhythmics. Olivia opened her eyes and let loose the smirk that she had kept from Laney the night before.
Sweet dreams indeed, Olivia thought to herself.
9. The Opposite Road
Olivia jammed her hands in her coat and exited New York City's police headquarters. Just as she stepped out into a particularly windy February day her cell phone trilled. Fishing the phone from her pocket, Olivia glanced at the caller ID before she answered.
"Alex, what's up?"
"Where are you?"
The detective cringed at the snappish tone. "Ah... 1 PP. I just dropped off evidence with the computer techs," Olivia said. A million and one scenarios crept up as she wondered what disservice the SVU has done this time for her to be on the receiving end of a patented Cabot ass chewing.
"Great, you're in the neighborhood. Do you want to do lunch over at my office?" Olivia let out a sigh of relief as Alex continued, "I spoke to Fin about the rape-homicide that you two worked on and I need to go over it with you before it goes to trial next Monday."
"The Gramercy case is finally up for trial?" Olivia turned the corner and quickened her pace, "I'm on way right now if you'll order in for us," she said as she headed to the parking structure.
"Or you could stop at the place on Canal and get us some dumplings. It'll be on your way," Alex stated as if it were a matter of fact, even though they both knew that it'd be a slight detour for Olivia to go through Chinatown to get to One Hogan Place.
"I'm also staring at the Brooklyn Bridge. Would you like me to go across it to buy you some deep fried ice cream too?" Olivia teased.
"Would you?" The lawyer asked in a voice bordering on - dare Olivia think it - sultry. That was twice in one phone call that Alex had caught Olivia off guard. Before Olivia could muster a proper response Alex reverted to her usual voice and said, "Just the dumplings. I'll call them right now. See you in a bit, Liv."
Olivia was pretty sure she didn't actually agree to the arrangement but found herself happily pulling out into traffic and headed towards Canal Street.
Fifteen minutes later, Olivia was in Alex's office with their lunch spread over the coffee table. Her speedy detour was aided by Mr. How's son-in-law running the order (with extra napkins for the inevitable mess) out to her car, thus saving Olivia the need to abuse her badge and double park during noon rush hour. They prepped for the trial over fried dumplings and iced tea; Olivia answered Alex's questions in between bites and tried not to get dipping sauce on the files.
"After Detective Tutuola and I interviewed the defendant's supervisor we were able to establish that he" Olivia stopped as her cellphone danced on the surface of the coffee table where she had left it on vibrate.
The caller ID was an unfamiliar one so she answered, "Benson."
Then the detective's features softened. "Hey, you..." she said after recognizing the caller. "Ah, I think we're still good to go tonight," she responded after a few moments. She also shot a quick glance at the ADA.
Alex could not help but eavesdrop. To her credit, she kept her eyes cast on the legal pad resting on her lap, scribbling as though Olivia's shift in tone and body language while on the phone had completely escaped her notice.
After saying goodbye with a play of smile on her lips Olivia rearranged her face and looked over at her friend.
Alex looked up from her notes and pulled off her glasses, an eyebrow slightly arched. To pretend that she had no idea what that call was about, she decided, was an insult to both their intelligence. Besides, Olivia seemed almost embarrassed about taking the call in her presence and Alex found the bashful look to be endearing. So she decided to milk the situation for a little while longer.
"So, you've found a life?" Alex said. Her demeanor was composed but her eyes told Olivia that she was bemused.
"A potential one," Olivia answered in indefinite terms. But she let the smile return to her face without attempting to suppress it.
They left it at that and went back to work. Neither of the women was aware that the other's thoughts were on Olivia's date that evening.
Twenty minutes and two Tums tablets later, Alex shoved sheaf of papers into her briefcase while explaining to Olivia that she was due at Judge Ridenour's chambers to hear Carl Kovak, part time criminal defense lawyer and full time ambulance chaser, squawk about bootstrapping and his motion to suppress evidence in a rape case against his client.
"So what are you gonna do?" Olivia asked, more for conversation than anything as she cleared the remains of their lunch off the coffee table.
Alex stopped and looked at Olivia seriously. "What I always do - win over the judge with my guileless charm and wit," she said.
Olivia chuckled at that.
"Not to tempt fate or anything," Alex said as she snapped her briefcase shut, "but I'm not too concerned about this meeting. Kovak's playbook is as predictable as Stanford's on third and long. I'll be in and out of there before you can say 'plea bargain'."
As Alex had predicted, Kovak's motion to suppress was summarily denied. That meant that the trial was to proceed full steam ahead and the ADA demolished Carl Kovak's version of the Twinkie defense in just two short days.
The prosecutor showed up at the SVU's bullpen after the verdict had been read and was congratulated by the detectives on her win. Then they returned to the business at hand with Elliot taking the lead in updating Alex on another case. At the end of it Alex was satisfied with the evidence. Confident that it wouldn't be questioned she even had a junior ADA go to a judge for the arrest warrant instead of taking it in herself.
She then suggested to the lead pair of detectives that they grab a quick lunch while waiting for the papers to be put together. Elliot passed, citing a need to follow up on another lead they had.
It would take too long for delivery to get here at this time of the day so the two of them Olivia and Alex - decided to head out to the deli down the street. They placed their orders and Olivia insisted it was her turn to pay this time. A couple of patrol officers from the one-six were leaving and they waved Olivia over to take their place.
The pair seated themselves at what would be generously called a table by the deli's window. It was a slab of wood on four uneven legs that no amount of matchbooks could keep stable. Outside, it was a bright, cold day without a cloud in sight but sunlight could barely work itself through the dusty pane of glass in front of the store. Neither the grunged-out window nor the shaky surface seemed to bother them as they settled into the no-shop-talk mode.
Alex made light conversation as she picked at her pastrami, careful to keep the escaping onions away from her blouse. She was also careful to not machine-gun Olivia with questions about this new "life" of hers. That phone call Olivia took in her office had stayed in her mind. She tried not to over analyze the curiosity that had spawned in her about this new person Olivia was seeing and concluded that it wasn't unreasonable to want to know more. After all, this was her friend and she was concerned. Olivia didn't need another Julia. Alex was just looking out for her friend.
"Mmmff..." Olivia murmured with her mouth full.
Alex smiled. "I take it that your ham and cheese is good?"
Olivia nodded and then wiped her mouth with a napkin before she spoke. "Did you finally go see Oldest Living Confederate Widow?"
"Yes. It was excellent."
"Great. I think I'll suggest to Laney that we go see that."
Laney. So that was her name.
Bringing up her name was like opening up the floodgates for Olivia as she began to fill Alex in on Laney Whitmore.
Alex listened intently as Olivia described the woman. The impression that began to form in Alex's mind was this: she was an older woman, apparently a great conversationalist, and an avid reader. Also, she taught downtown at Pace. Alex made a mental note to find out what 'game theory' meant. Laney also laughed at Olivia's jokes which, Alex noticed, the detective seemed particularly happy to divulge. Olivia seemed to be more at ease talking about Laney than she had been about young Julia. The blonde maintained what she hoped was a casually interested look on her face.
Olivia had stopped talking and looked at Alex several times in between bites of her sandwich. The attorney chewed slowly to buy herself some time to think of an appropriate response. This proved problematic with the knot she felt in her stomach coupled with a disproportionate resentment towards a woman she has never met.
Unfortunately, her skilled ability at directing a conversation failed her and all she could come up with was to ask questions that had Olivia sharing even more about Laney.
When she arrived back at her office Alex's mood was not as light as it had been earlier while basking in the win at court. She looked up Professor Laney Whitmore on Pace University's website. She could see just from the picture what Olivia liked about the woman. Even in the still photo the woman radiated intelligence. Her half smile seemed to reveal a quirky side, though Alex conceded she could be reading into the fact that she liked Olivia's jokes into the observation. She closed the browser with a hard jab of the mouse and sat back on her chair, attempting to clear her mind.
Harvester, the ADA she had called to issue the arrest warrant made the mistake of stopping in her office at that moment. Alex proceeded to give him a negligible dressing down for taking too long in getting the warrant signed. While it may have been inconsequential to Alex, Michael Harvester walked out of her office wondering what was stuck up that ice queen's ass.
Olivia almost growled out loud when her cell phone rang. She was preparing to meet Laney for a quick lunch before heading home to nap. She and Elliot had just finished their second day of a stake out that Olivia deemed as pointless as a t-bone steak at a vegetarian's convention. A quick glance at the number told her that she couldn't ignore it.
Five minutes later she listened to the play back song on Laney's cell. Olivia was a little surprised to hear The Doors. Laney had seemed unimpressed with Olivia's admission that classic rock was her music of choice.
"Too late, too late," Olivia murmured along with Jim. She stopped immediately when Laney's voice mail message began.
"Hi Laney, it's Olivia. Listen, I'm really sorry to cancel at the last minute but something came up and I'm needed at the house." She paused as Elliot and Munch approached her desk. "I'll call you when I get done here... if you'd like to meet before your four o'clock. Talk to you later."
"Alex already knows about this Liv," Elliot told her.
Olivia was confused for a split second then shook her head. Elliot knew about her and Alex's frequent meals, though most of them had been lunches of late. "I was having lunch with someone else."
"Oh ho. Cheating on our ADA and lunching with that schmuck from Homicide?" Munch asked.
Olivia ignored the gangly cop, refusing to rise to the bait. Besides, she had no desire to get into a conversation about cheating on their ADA; it would be all too easy to drop her poker face.
"Sounds like you canceled on a date," Elliot teased.
"Sounds like you have an active imagination," Olivia retorted just as the phone rang again. She glanced at it and smiled.
"Benson," she answered.
"Whitmore," Laney said in imitation but it was followed by a chuckle that ruined the effect.
"What can I do for you?" Olivia asked forcing herself not to smile too widely.
"Ah, you can't talk. Got it. Meet me at The Grind for breakfast?"
"I'll be there by seven," Olivia replied.
After she pushed end Olivia looked up to see that Alex and Fin had joined Munch and Elliot. How did I miss her arrival? Olivia wondered. She flashed the four of them a grin.
"Hey Alex," Olivia greeted the lawyer cheerfully.
"You did have a date," Elliot said victoriously. The look on his face told her that she was in for some good-natured ribbing.
"Well I don't now. Let's get this over so I can sleep before the endless joy of wasting our time starts all over again," Olivia told them.
"Wasting your time?" Alex asked from her perch at the edge of Olivia's desk.
"I think Sophia Grozny is long gone and I think her depraved brother is probably in the Hudson," Olivia replied with a shrug. Seeing the looks on her colleagues faces she elaborated, "Sophia grew up in the same family he did. She'd know how to make someone disappear. Uncle Link was messing with her kids."
"That'd do it for me," Elliot mumbled.
"Any idea why Deputy Chief McGuire is so interested in Link Grozny?" Munch asked Alex.
"I would assume it's because he wants to see a murdering pedophile locked up," Alex told him.
"Assuming you know what the brasses thinkin' will get yo ass in a sling," Fin cautioned.
"Munch's right McGuire's focused on Grozny in a big way," Olivia told her.
"Well whatever his interest we drew the short straw and get to baby-sit her empty apartment again," Elliot said as they moved toward Cragen's office for their speakerphone briefing with McGuire.
Olivia stirred in another packet of sugar into her coffee as she waited for Laney to arrive. The bruise on her cheek stung and her back was aching from the running tackle she executed during the foot chase. Why do they always run? she wondered grouchily. Olivia's ego had also taken a beating. Her conclusion that Sophia Grozny was long gone had been incorrect.
Twiddle Dumb and Twiddle Dumber were back for more indecision and Olivia was glad she had beaten them to the line. She caught the dumber of the two staring at her bruise and gave her a scowl. The intruder instantly averted her eyes, looking almost afraid. Then she whispered to the Dumb one. Olivia had a feeling she'd just given the girl the same look she would sometimes receive from her mother. Those were the times when her mother, sloppy from a mid-afternoon happy hour, saw Olivia's father instead of her.
Laney arrived ten minutes late, full of apologies but to Olivia's pleasure no excuses. It took the professor a few seconds before she looked at Olivia closely. When she did she stopped in mid sentence.
"What happened?" Laney asked eyeing the bruise.
"Took an elbow from a suspect. I'm fine," Olivia told her.
"That doesn't look fine to me. Are you hurt anywhere else?" Laney inquired with a voice filled with concern.
"My back hurts a little. I've got the day off. I'll go to the gym for a swim and sleep the rest of it off," Olivia assured her.
Laney didn't say anything for a full minute. Olivia wondered what was running through her head. She was beginning to get a little nervous. Her job had chased away more than one person. Then the older woman took the lid off her coffee and dipped her honey bun in it.
"Can you tell me what happened?" Laney finally asked.
"I told you that my partner and I were on a stake out last night? Well the woman we were looking for showed up," Olivia began. She kept the story tame not admitting that Laney would be seeing the entire story as breaking news by ten o'clock that morning. She told her about Sophia coming home at one in the morning, the chase through the streets on the Lower East Side, the tackle, the fight and the fact that Sophia Grozny had bitten her on the arm.
Laney switched chairs so she was sitting next to Olivia. When she took her hand the detective felt the urge to pull away. Laney lifted Olivia's sleeve until she saw the corner of the bandage. Olivia hurriedly pulled it back down and shook her head.
"Anyway, we got the warrant for the apartment and found more evidence than we needed. She's going to jail for a long time," Olivia finished. She didn't add that a second warrant for Deputy Chief McGuire's home and office had been issued when it was discovered that Uncle Link wasn't the only one messing with Sophia's children.
"What did she do?" Laney asked.
"Killed her brother," Olivia replied sipping her lukewarm coffee. Laney's brows knitted closer as she seemed to think about it. "He was a child molester," Olivia qualified.
That seemed to satisfy Laney as to why a SVU detective would be working a homicide. They sat in silence for a few minutes each working on their breakfast. Olivia was a bit grossed out at Laney dunking a honey bun in her coffee but kept the thought to herself.
"Olivia... My first class isn't until ten. Why don't we go to my place so you can relax? I've got a whirlpool in my bath," Laney told her.
"It's nice of you to offer Laney but I don't want to mess up your schedule," Olivia answered.
"Nonsense. I insist," Laney told her. Olivia considered objecting again but couldn't come up with a reason why she shouldn't spend a couple hours with Laney.
"Alright. Shall we get one to go?" Olivia asked. She looked at the counter and saw the blonde incarnation of the two stooges at the counter again. Laney followed her gaze and chuckled lightly.
"I'm afraid we don't have that much time," Laney pointed out.
They chose to walk the five blocks to Laney's apartment. Out of habit, Olivia strolled slowly, checking the area as they went. At one point a bike messenger nearly ran Laney down. Olivia saw the transplanted Midwesterner turn into a New Yorker as Laney called the biker a few choice names with a perfect South Brooklyn accent. The messenger boy must have just arrived in the city as he actually stopped to trade insults instead of riding on and offering the one fingered apology. Olivia adjusted her jacket to allow her badge and gun to peek out. The kid stopped short when his sight landed on Olivia's waist.
"Thank you," Laney said softly as the biker rode away. Olivia wasn't sure if she was being thanked for flashing her authority or pulling Laney out of the way. She just gave Laney her crooked smile, slid her arm over Laney's and they continued on.
Olivia stepped through the threshold of Laney's apartment and removed her badge and cuffs as she slipped off her coat. She dropped the cuffs in the inside pocket and clipped her badge on to it. Having no way to secure her weapon, she checked the safeties, reholstered the Glock and placed it on the coffee table.
She sank into the overstuffed sofa and stifled a groan when her back tightened. Laney offered her a bottle of aspirin and a glass of water without comment. Olivia took three and kneaded her left side hoping to loosen the muscle. Laney observed Olivia silently and then moved to sit next to her.
"Turn around," Laney requested. Olivia obeyed and was rewarded with Laney's cool hands massaging her lower back. Five minutes later, Olivia felt her muscles relax and the moan she let out was almost primal. Another one nearly escaped Olivia's lips when Laney untucked her shirt and put her hands directly on Olivia's skin.
"This feels okay?" Laney asked.
Olivia had her eyes closed and was feeling much more than okay. She managed to squeak out an affirmative answer. Laney responded by applying more pressure to Olivia's back.
A few minutes later Laney asked, "Would you think it forward of me if I asked you to take off your shirt?"
Olivia hesitated. Things were moving much more quickly than it had with Julia... faster than any relationship she had ever been in actually. Yet her reaction was to unbutton her shirt and allow Laney to slide it off of her back. Laney let out a small gasp, "Your shoulder..."
"Cement is hard," Olivia remarked matter-of-factly. The bruise she had spotted on her shoulder this morning when she tried to wash up at the station had probably tripled in size.
Laney began her firm ministrations again and Olivia was concerned that the older woman would be able to tell exactly how turned on she was getting. She decided that if asked she would claim that it was a little chilly in here. After all, she was sitting on a leather sofa clad only in her bra and jeans.
"Would you like to lie down?" Laney asked. Olivia looked vaguely at the lush sofa and realized that it was hardly big enough for the two of them to sit on let alone for her to lie comfortably.
"Not enough room."
"I... Not that I want you to think I am taking advantage of you in your injured state but I do have a bed," Laney said. Olivia felt a smirk forming.
"I'm not injured enough for you to take advantage of me," Olivia told her.
"I feel as if I'm being a little too presumptuous," Laney confessed as Olivia turned around to face her.
Olivia leaned over and kissed the professor, first gently, then with more intensity. It wasn't long until Laney was on her back with Olivia on top of her. Olivia broke off the kiss and asked, "Am I being too presumptuous?"
"No," Laney said pulling Olivia's face back down so they could kiss again.
The sofa would have been perfectly comfortable but for the length. They extricated themselves from the loveseat and Laney led Olivia to her bedroom. Olivia found a temporary home for her weapon on top of the dresser and then found herself face first on the bed. She hugged the pillow under her head as Laney massaged the kinks out of her back again. She was dozing off when Laney reached up and unhooked her bra. The position she was lying in made it difficult to remove the red lace garment so Olivia propped herself up on her elbows and let the straps slide down her biceps. She tossed it onto the chair where Laney had laid her shirt over.
Laney moved very slowly touching Olivia only on her back. This was obviously not going to be a seductive massage. Olivia wondered what Laney's hesitation was about and backed off her plan to remove Laney's shirt.
When it became apparent the massage was finished Olivia reached behind her, pulled Laney's left hand to her lips and kissed the palm. "Thank you."
Laney lay down next to her and smiled at the rumpled detective. Olivia rolled up on her side and kissed Laney's hand again. Then she placed it on her rib cage just below her bare breast. Laney looked stunned and her eyes trailed down to her hand then back to Olivia's face.
Olivia pressed up against Laney and kissed her harder than before. Laney's hand moved very slowly until it was cupping Olivia. Olivia broke off the kiss and began to nibble on Laney's neck and ear.
They lay like that for quite some time and then Laney removed her hand. Olivia kissed Laney again and the older woman snuggled against her. Olivia felt herself nodding off and did nothing to fight it.
When she woke up Laney was gone. She vaguely remembered Laney quietly slipping out from under the covers. She looked to the bedside table and there was a note left for her written in long, flowing script:
I will be in class until five and you are welcome to stay. Help yourself to anything in the fridge though you'll have better luck with the delivery menus in the drawer by the stove.
I'll bring home dinner unless you ring me to let me know if you've been called in. I believe you left a few details out of your account of what happened last night. I caught the news and while you weren't mentioned by name I dread thinking you were involved in that mess.
Olivia glanced down at the sweat pants and t-shirt that she remembered Laney helping her dress in. They were too big for Olivia and Laney probably swam in them but they were warm and comfortable. She snuggled under the covers and decided that she would ignore the beeping from her cell phone in the other room.
Her resolve lasted all of about five seconds. Olivia padded in her bare feet to find her cell. It was in the inner pocket of her jacket with her shield.
After a trip to Laney's candle filled bathroom Olivia checked her messages. Alex had called twice, leaving messages that were of concern and non-work related. Elliot had also called twice once claiming to be outside her door with lunch. She glanced at the bedside clock and sighed. The message from Cragen advising that the case had indeed been taken over by the IAB and the Major Case Squad was not a surprise. The fact that Olivia didn't care was one though.
Laney had called it a mess in her understatement. Olivia wanted nothing to do with it. A quick call to Elliot assured him that she was okay. She didn't tell him where she was and was glad when he didn't ask. Then she snuggled down in the bed and sent Alex a text to call her when she could.
Her cell rang thirty seconds later. After establishing Olivia's state of health and current location Alex let loose a rant on Arthur Branch and his Machiavellian ways. She was furious that she was not going to be the prosecutor in the McGuire or the Grozny cases - Branch had reassigned both to Jack McCoy's office. Olivia allowed her friend to growl and grumble with the occasional murmur of agreement.
Alex's biggest complaint was that her detectives had done all the work and now the team was being pushed aside. Olivia read between the lines. The case was huge and while the fiery ADA wanted justice for the five kids who had been systematically abused Alex also wanted some ink.
Olivia was too tired and aching to call her friend on it. So she just listened until Alex ran out of steam. Abruptly changing the topic she asked if Alex would like to have dinner the following night. To her surprise Alex replied by telling her she had a date with a man named Garrett.
Olivia carefully checked her reaction. It would be a serious violation of principles to be jealous of Alex's date when she was in Laney's bed. She told Alex to have fun and after hanging up she pulled the covers over her shoulders. The whirlpool would have to wait, Olivia thought as she dozed off into a light sleep.
10. Fools Rush In
Alex checked her watch as she walked up the steps of the precinct house, making sure she still had time after this stop to head home and change before meeting Garret. It has been months since her last date and she was feeling the jitters. Despite that unwritten 'no coworkers' rule and despite that dreadful evening with Sorenson from the Trial Bureau she agreed to have dinner with Garret Young the first time he asked.
As a detective investigator in the DA's office, Garret's paths crossed Alex's from time to time, especially in the earlier days before she was assigned to the special victims bureau. Secretly, he was her favorite among the group of investigators. Professionally, she liked him because he was unassuming with his work and never had a chip on his shoulder like some of the others who wished they were carrying a gold shield instead of the DA's Investigator badge. And Garret Young had an easy manner about him that made him very attractive to the opposite sex. Once, on her way to the copy machine Alex had overheard some female paralegals speculating on why none of them has ever been asked out by the handsome blond-haired investigator.
Alex suddenly realized, a little belatedly, that if they learned about this dinner date it'd be fodder for the water fountain gossips for days. It was bad enough last year during her month long suspension; everyone from the ADAs down in the office food chain had secretly referred to the episode as the Cabot Maneuver. Then getting herself thrown in jail less than a month after her return and still managing to keep her job made her the stuff of legends. For the next month or so, the office and courthouse had held their collective breaths every time Cabot drew Lena Petrovsky as trial judge. Alex figured if she could survive that, she could certainly deal with a few mouths jawing about her going to dinner with Garret.
The other reason Alex said yes to Garret was to attempt to put behind her the faux pas with Olivia that has played quiet havoc with her feelings since new years. Some days, she was convinced that it was one of those incidents you laugh off and blame the alcohol. It was a mistake that didn't need to be brought up and over analyzed. On other days, especially the days when Olivia would smile just a little wider, or held Alex's gaze a moment too long, she could not quit thinking about what ifs. What if she hadn't pulled away before Olivia could react? How would Olivia react?
That line of thinking would lead her to stand closer to the detective when they were going over case files or she would place a hand on the detective's arm when pointing out a detail in a report. Behind her business as usual veneer Alex observed Olivia during these interactions and tried to gauge the other woman's reactions but she saw nothing beyond the usual geniality Olivia displayed at work with everyone.
Alex concluded that Olivia had clearly forgotten about the incident. She decided it would be juvenile to continue to fret aimlessly about a drunken peck on the lips. So she forcefully buried the emotions underlying the kiss, not only because they were the culprit to this unending circle she has been wandering in but they were feelings she did not have words for. That, more than anything else, irked the lawyer.
Alex slowly exhaled through her mouth as she rode the elevator up. She brought her mind back to the work she had to do here brief Cragen and let Munch and Tutuola know how unhappy she was that they were about to be called on by defense counsel as corroborating witnesses.
"At least give us his name!" Alex heard one of her SVU detectives shout from the end of the corridor as she stepped out of the elevator on the fourth floor.
From the same direction of the voice came Olivia rounding the corner of the hallway, shrugging on her coat and smiling to herself. How did the simple, unconscious act of walking with confidence become so attractive with this woman, Alex absentmindedly thought.
"Hey," said Olivia when she saw Alex approaching.
"Did you need me?"
Yes. "No," the lawyer replied. She shifted her grip on the strap of her attaché case slung over her shoulder and nodded towards the direction of the bullpen. "What was that about?" she asked the cop.
Olivia slipped her hands in her pockets and said, "Munch and Elliot. They're giving me the third degree because I'm leaving on time. Those fine detective minds put together that I was going to meet someone, which led to an endless round of 'Who is he' and 'What does he do'."
Alex smiled. She would have probably asked the same questions too if she didn't already know who the detective was meeting. Alex commiserated, "It's like having older brothers you've always never wanted."
Olivia gave Alex a lopsided smile. "I let them carry on with the over protective big brother act. It's good for their egos when they think they're looking out for me."
"It's never crossed my mind that you couldn't take care of yourself."
"And it's never crossed my mind that you would allow incompetent detectives to work for you."
They both shared a smile at the reminder of the lawyer's uncharacteristic outburst during the Cavanaugh case. Too many things went wrong during the investigation but the good that came out of Alex's suspension was that it had brought her and Olivia closer. Her and all her SVU detectives closer, she corrected herself.
The silence was threatening to become awkward as the two women stood in the hallway, each needing to go their own way but neither seemed to want to make the first move to depart.
Alex noticed that the bruise on Olivia's cheek was already well on the mend. When she came in yesterday at the crack of dawn, Alex had entered the squad room to find the detective sitting at her desk with a can of soda pressed up against her face. Her right sleeve had been rolled up to reveal a bandage on her forearm. The ADA had to prevent herself from asking what had happened knowing that she would be briefed in full when everyone was gathered. When she left Cragen's office, Alex's determination to not be overtly concerned had dissolved but Olivia was nowhere in sight.
As she looked at faint mark now she thought to ask Olivia about her arm but instead what came out was, "I spoke with Jack McCoy's office today. Aggravated assault against a police officer is firmly tacked to the long list of charges being brought up against Ms. Grozny."
Olivia looked impressed and Alex was pleased. The lawyer left out the part of her conversation with McCoy's assistant where she sternly assured the other ADA that if they did not have the wherewithal to bump up the assault charge and argue that Sophia Grozny's teeth would constitute a 'dangerous instrument' then the Sex Crimes Bureau would be more than happy, and able, to take the case back from them. She was certain that there would be hell to pay when Elizabeth Donnelly received word of her posturing, but she was also pretty sure that the seasoned bureau chief had been none too pleased about Branch's decision to hand the cases over to another department either.
"So where are you going with Grant tonight?"
Olivia's eyes widened, and she looked slightly abashed at her gaffe but Alex moved the subject along as though she didn't care.
"We haven't decided," Alex said. "I'm meeting him as soon as I'm done here."
The elevator behind them dinged its arrival.
"So, uh..." Olivia gestured, "Guess I should be going now."
The lawyer nodded. "Have... have a good night," Alex uncharacteristically stumbled over her words.
The pair said their goodbyes and Olivia made haste for the elevator.
Alex, however, remained rooted at the spot. She took a moment to close her eyes and gathered her wits before she walked into the squad room, not realizing that a pair of eyes had followed her until the elevator doors shut close.
Laney was already at the restaurant and waiting at the bar when Olivia arrived. Olivia walked over to the smiling woman who was dressed in a chic, understated blouse and a damask skirt. They embraced.
"You look great," Laney said after stepping back to admire Olivia's dark slacks, red blouse and black leather coat. Her sharp eyes examined the fading bruise on Olivia's cheek shrewdly. She made no comment but seemed to find Olivia's quick healing reassuring.
Olivia flashed her a smile. "Thanks. Ready to go eat?"
After they ordered, Olivia tore into the basket of bread as politely as possible. She had given up her lunch hour to spend it filling out her DD5s for the day. It was the best way to get off work at a reasonable hour. She was now ravenous; two half-stale granola bars and a bag of Doritos stolen from Elliot's stash did not make a lunch.
Olivia enjoyed the conversation as they easily slid from one topic to the next. Laney, who was originally from the tiny town of Bremen, Indiana was a huge Notre Dame fan though the only sport she enjoyed watching was skeet shooting.
That led to the topic of guns and hunting. Olivia had never gone hunting except for miscreants on the streets of Manhattan. Laney had shot her first squirrel at the age of twelve. Her older brother got a good laugh when the recoil from the shotgun had knocked her on her ass. Olivia was amused by the thought of 'outdoor Laney' and told her so.
"Yes, yes. When they make my action figure it will come with a shot gun and my thesis," Laney joked.
"Or a library card," Olivia replied remembering Laney's voracious reading habits.
"Yours would be a badge, Glock and a pair of cuffs, naturally."
"A girl needs her accessories," Olivia stated after a slight hesitation.
"What would your action figure do to relax?" Laney asked.
Olivia smirked inwardly at Laney's roundabout way of probing and nearly said something about whirlpools, massages and Laney's left hand. Instead she waved her hand over the table and said, "She'd eat!"
After running through the topic of food the conversation turned to travel. Laney was contemplating her plans for spring break when Olivia said, "I can't remember the last time I could plan ahead for an extended vacation."
"It's one of the nicer perks of tenure," Laney told her.
Olivia was about to reply when she felt her phone buzz. She dabbed her lips with the napkin as she checked the message. It was from Alex. All it said was "SOS" followed by an address somewhere in midtown. Olivia's face was inscrutable.
"Something wrong?" Laney asked.
"It's the ADA."
"You're getting called in?"
Olivia looked at the message again and felt the conflict building in her. It would be bad form to abandon date and the pleasant evening she was having but she'd made a promise to Alex and she was going to keep it. So she said, "Yes. I'm sorry about this, Laney."
"It's alright, we were about to move on to dessert. This just means I won't have to do an extra mile at the gym tomorrow as penance." Laney smiled at her.
Olivia searched the professor's face but found no hint of annoyance behind those words. Her understanding made Olivia feel an even bigger twinge of guilt to leave under false pretenses. They said their goodbyes five minutes later outside of the restaurant. "I'll call you," Olivia promised Laney as she opened the door to the cab for the professor.
"Take care of yourself," Laney said. She leaned in to place a kiss on Olivia's cheek and got into the taxi.
Olivia shut the door and watched the cab join the busy evening traffic. Then she headed towards the subway station and by the time she was in a train riding towards 50th and 8th, her thoughts were no longer on her ruined evening but on Alex.
As she walked the block and a half from the subway station to the address Alex had texted her, Olivia ran through the lines she was going to use to spring Alex from her miserable loser of a date. She chastised herself for that petty thought and entered the nondescript brownstone that housed the Italian fusion restaurant.
Before the maitre d' could fuss over her, Olivia spotted Alex... and her handsome date. A handsome miserable loser of a date, she amended. Olivia recognized him as a quasi investigator from the DA's office. Having worked with him before she wondered why Alex had agreed to go out with him. Personally Olivia had found him as exciting as stale bread. She pointed at Alex's general direction to the maitre d'; the host gave her a disapproving scowl and let her pass. Olivia put on her cop face and approached the target.
"Ah... Ms. Cabot."
Alex looked up to see a grave Olivia Benson standing by her table. She pretended to look surprised to see the detective. "I really hope that you're here enjoying the fine cuisine and you've just come over to say hello, Detective Benson," she said.
The stunning looking blonde stared at Olivia with cold, blue eyes. Olivia instinctively bristled at the intense glare.
Oh, she's good.
Olivia looked over apologetically at Alex's date and turned back to the ADA. "Sorry to do this to you but Captain Cragen needs you to be present for the Haskell interrogation. We think he's willing to deal and we couldn't reach you on your cell. Called your office and Macy told me you'd be here."
"Remind me to thank my assistant for her helpfulness to the SVU. And this interrogation cannot happen tomorrow morning because?" Alex's question dripped with disdain.
Dammit, Alex. Quit playing and let's go already, Olivia thought.
"The ah... time sensitive nature of the case," Olivia said as she looked sideways at Garret again. "And Efren Ruiz is gonna skip town soon as he hears we're holding his buddy Haskell."
Alex seemed to give this some consideration and turned towards Garret who was patiently observing the exchange. "Garret, I'm very sorry..." Alex said. She started to rise from the table and Garret was quickly on his feet, moving over to help Alex with her coat.
The awkwardness of the situation felt by Olivia was only surpassed by a sudden desire to smack Garret's hands away and help Alex herself. She gave herself another strong reprimand about these covetous and even territorial feelings that had been building since the train ride. She stood mutely while she waited for Alex to pave the way with Garret for a gracious exit.
"I've worked with enough ADAs to know that the SVU assignment demands a certain flexibility in one's off-duty time," Olivia heard Garret say. Another considerate date, Olivia mused.
After declining an offer by Garret to drive them to the station, the two left the restaurant and by tacit agreement started walking towards the general direction of Alex's apartment.
They passed several blocks in silence before Olivia's curiosity bested her.
"So, he a momma's boy too?"
Alex smiled at that. "No."
They fell into silence again. The evening was mild and the walk was pleasant. They kept bumping into each other's sides while dodging other pedestrians. More than once, heads that passed turned back to check out the two tall, attractive figures.
"Lousy conversationalist?" The brunette prodded.
"Olivia..." The sides of Alex's mouth turned up even as her tone implored Olivia for mercy. But Olivia pressed on, emboldened by the green-eyed monster that had managed to escape and was making itself heard ever since she left dinner with Laney.
"I can't imagine that it's because he's some brutish pig. He about tipped the table over trying to help you with your jacket."
"He mentioned tonight that he's a fan of Dostoevsky," Alex said, surprising herself.
"Ah, so he's literate too. Geez, Alex, I dunno." Olivia started counting off Garret's virtues with her fingers. "Polite, smart, dresses well and plenty good looking..."
"That last one is hardly his fault now, is it?" The blonde quipped. "But I find Dostoevsky to be tediously boring."
"That's snobbery, Alex."
Alex didn't respond to the accusation right away. When she finally spoke she said, "You know... we're going to need an alibi."
"Hmm?" Olivia decided to not call Alex out on her attempt at changing the subject.
"Macy had no way of knowing where Garrett and I were," Alex pointed out.
Olivia gave Alex another glimpse of that damn crooked smile and shrugged slightly. "I don't think he's a good enough investigator to figure it out."
They stopped at a crosswalk and Alex inhaled the aroma wafting out of the bakery across the street. She took in another deep breath and smelled perfume. She looked sideways at Olivia's profile and noted that the leather jacket was one she'd never seen on Olivia before.
"You know, I was craving italian tonight."
Olivia looked at her. "What was that place?"
Alex thought for a moment, trying to come up with words to describe the molecular gastronomy cuisine and the post-modern interior decorating. "I was thinking more rustic and less..."
"Less of a butt clenching ambience?" Olivia supplied.
"If by that you mean an unduly avant garde approach to fine dining, then yes."
The two women crossed the street and as they passed the boulangerie the blonde looked longingly at the croissants through the window.
Alex turned away from the tempting pastries and continued her train of thought from earlier. "That trattoria at Park Slope we heard about from Desk Sergeant Minetti? I suggested to Garret we go there tonight. He seemed to think it was too far to go for good italian."
They were two blocks from the apartment building. Olivia's detective mind put together everything Alex had said during the entire walk but couldn't place a finger on the missing element. Her quiet pensiveness was not lost on Alex.
"Olivia?" Alex asked as the silence began to grow heavier.
"Hmm? Sorry. I was just... thinking," Olivia said as she dodged a typical hurried New Yorker at a corner. Even at this time of day, someone is always in a hurry to get somewhere.
"About what?" Alex asked hoping that it wasn't Laney.
"That our dates were both understanding about everything," Olivia answered in truth, if not the whole truth. "I need to call Laney tomorrow," she thought aloud to herself.
Alex had been so pleased to have Olivia show up that she almost forgot about the shenanigans she'd pulled. A slight pang of remorse immediately hit her.
"I realized... that is, I'm sorry I ruined your evening. I should have just--" Alex hesitated but Olivia cut her off.
"I make few promises and I like to keep the ones that I do make. It's fine, Alex."
The prick of guilt grew and Alex was caught up with conflicting thoughts on the whats and whys of the evening. She slowed her gait and Olivia matched her step. Alex had run out of excuses. She knew that the reasons she'd proffered were exceedingly feeble and would've been thrown out of any court. Just can't stop thinking like a prosecutor, she chided herself.
Just ask me, Olivia, Alex begged in her head. Ask me why I really called on you tonight.
"What?" Apparently she'd missed something Olivia said.
"I said, you've got quite a list going there... about Garret."
The duo slowed to a stop, a stone's throw from Alex's building and looked at each other. As though she'd read the lawyer's mind, Olivia said, "Which one's the real reason for the ditch?"
Alex looked down for a moment and closed her eyes, searching deep within for an ounce of courage to tell the truth. She lifted her gaze and studied the woman in front of her.
Instead of words Alex stepped closer to Olivia and in one bold move showed the cop why Garret would not be on her dance card again.
If she were ever asked, Olivia Benson would swear on any holy book that she was surprised but at that instant shock wasn't the sensation that registered in her head. After a second she even gave in and kissed Alex back. Their lips brushed against each other with a familiarity that belied the fact that this was only the second time they'd kissed. The first time didn't really count anyway, Olivia thought hazily as she put her hands on Alex's hip and pulled the other woman closer.
There was no urgency in this kiss as Alex allowed herself to be drawn into the embrace. Her palms rested on Olivia's shoulders but then she moved one hand to Olivia's neck where her thumb lightly stroked the other woman's skin behind her ear. Olivia may have let out a noise, she wasn't sure.
They pulled apart when they needed air more than they needed each other. Olivia could still taste Alex's tongue and her ears felt really warm. Alex was breathing hard but Olivia looked to be more shaken of the two. The brunette blinked repeatedly as she stared, wide-eyed, at the woman who had once again rendered her completely dumbfounded with a kiss.
"That's the real reason," Alex said softly. Olivia had to shake herself to figure out what Alex was talking about. Oh, Garret. Garret and Laney. Christ.
"That's not fair, Alex," Olivia protested in a whisper.
"I know." Alex sighed. "I'm sorry. I just keep thinking about New Years and--"
"If I hadn't been out with Laney," Olivia cut her off a little harsher than she had intended, "would you have sent the SOS?"
"I..." Alex could not bring herself to admit that but her silence became an indictment. She watched Olivia, looking for a clear sign of anger or any indication that she, Alex, might have completely crossed the line. The angled streetlight cast a relief on Olivia's face and gave her clenched jaw the definition of chiseled stone. Alex thought about it but quelled the urge to reach out and touch the detective again.
Olivia stood there, as silent as the blonde. She was partly angry with Alex and partly afraid that the four hundred and seventy six different thoughts running through her head would come out all at once if she didn't keep her mouth shut. No words seemed appropriate to follow that sensational kiss. So she said the first thing that came to mind.
"Why'd you kiss me?" Olivia felt an odd sense of déjà vu with those words.
Alex looked at her friend and realized she didn't have a good answer. I think I like you? It should've been you going out to Brooklyn with me tonight for rustic Italian? I don't have an answer that doesn't make me sound like I'm back in junior high?
Instead, she settled for, "I don't know?"
"Is that a question? You don't know?" Olivia demanded.
"I wanted to know if... if it felt the same when I'm not shit faced drunk," Alex stammered out.
Olivia didn't seem to notice Alex's surprising choice of words. She only nodded, accepting the answer that acknowledged the incident that they had both been dancing around for a better part of the last three months. Yet part of her remained either unconvinced or did not want to be. She waited for Alex to continue. When she didn't Olivia asked, "So how did it feel?"
"It's..." Alex inhaled and let out a breath, "different. The same but different."
It was Olivia's turn to close her eyes to sort out what she was going to say next. She placed a hand on Alex's back and led her to the entrance of the building. They stopped again and Olivia faced Alex with a steely expression.
"I like you, Alex..." Olivia's voice wavered but she caught herself. "I mean I really do. And I know you don't share those feelings and... the things you're doing are confusing the hell out of me."
Alexandra Cabot stared at the detective evenly. "Did you ever consider that you're not the only one who's confused?"
Shaking her head Olivia said, "I can't... I won't be the one to add to your confusion. And when you decide this isn't what you really wanted anyway..." she trailed off, leaving the rest unsaid.
Olivia reached out and took Alex's hand. "Let me know when you figure it out?" She gave the hand a squeeze and let go. "Good night, Alex."
Olivia stuffed her hands in her coat, turned and walked away.
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